June 19, 2006

A Pseudo-Letter on the Teaching of Writing

I'm still not ready for the next (second) installment of my series on how to identify a scribal school but I thought some of you might enjoy this "letter" on teaching writing.

1 [To the divi]ne king
1b [say:(?)]

2 [Thus says Lugalib]ila, your priest of ablution. (rituel bath?)

3 [Concerning the matter] about which I am writing you, (in your) greatness,
4 [do not be neg]ligent.

5 [To the young (student) who] is sitting before you
6 do not be [neg]ligent.

7 [In the art of being a scribe, a]ny (trade) secret,
8 [reveal] it!

9 [The calculation t]able, settlement of accounts, any
10 [tricks?], reveal it (them)!

11 A secret [sign?], reveal it right away.

12 A sharpened reed, leather, tallow, (and) beaten (prepared?) clay
13 were given to this young (student).

14 [       ] when completed and (when in) good condition
15 [     ] take away.

16 [ to wr]ite in a letter and [
17 [     ] you, will still(?) know me.

18 [   a]ll that pertains to the a[rt of wri]ti[ng
19 do no[t be negl]igent.

Remember, things enclosed in [] are restored and things enclosed in () are add for clarification. Whenever you see a ?, it means that there is more than the usual amount of uncertainty. The double spaces betweens lines are a reflection of am inscribed line on the tablet.

My translation of this Akkadian "letter" is based on Nougayrol's reconstruction of the text of RS 17.80. His reconstruction is based in large part on a Sumerian version (RS 17.10) that is also from Ugarit. He also drew on several parallel texts from Mesopotamia. There are a few legible signs after line 19 but not enough to make any sense of them.

This is not a real letter. It is a work of literature in the form of a letter. There is one interesting idiom worth highlighting. That is "ah-ka la-a ta-na-an-dì." It occurs on the tablet in a couple of forms but the one quoted is representative. Literally it means, "do not throw down your arm" but the meaning of do not be negligent is well documented.


Nougayrol, Jean, "La Bibliothèque du Lettré" Ugaritica V, Mission de Ras Shamra, XVI, Paris: P. Geuthner, 1968, 23-28

Posted by DuaneSmith at June 19, 2006 07:24 PM | Read more on Scribal Schools |

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